I just saw the news that Ricky Jay died yesterday in LA of natural causes, age 72. He was best known as a magician and actor, but he was also a towering figure in the study of the odd, esoteric, and weird. His book Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women is an all-time classic of the genre. We've had it on permanent rotation in our sidebar list of recommended books for a while. It was first published in 1986, but I only discovered it in the early 1990s, when I was at grad school. I thought it was amazing. One of my favorite books ever. And I've been a huge fan of his ever since. He'll be missed!
It seems like 2016 was a year marked by an unusually high number of celebrity deaths. And among those who passed away was Perky, the duck who wouldn't die, who did, in fact, finally kick the bucket.
Perky was a one-pound, female, ring-neck duck who gained international fame in January 2007 after she survived being shot three times by a hunter, retrieved by a dog, and then stored in the hunter's refrigerator for two days.
By chance, the hunter's wife happened to open the refrigerator (she reportedly rarely looked in it because it was the spare fridge her husband used to store game), at which point Perky lifted her head to say hello. The wife took compassion on Perky and rushed her to a vet.
American eccentric Adam Purple died last week, at the age of 84. The NY Times says he collapsed on the walkway of the Williamsburg Bridge. We've previously noted some of his achievements here on WU. He's most famous as the "original hipster" and a "Guerrilla Gardener" who created a "Garden of Eden" on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Will Atkinson died recently of pancreatitis, at the age of 51. He had gained fame in Oxford, Mississippi as an Elvis impersonator, and was known there as "Elvis," or the "Big E." And also as the "Walmart Elvis" because he worked at Walmart and would sing in the aisles as he worked. From the Clarion-Ledger:
By day, he worked at the local Walmart, where he would sing gospel and Elvis classics throughout the store so well that many mistook his voice for the sound system, said Walmart sales associate Suzette Boone...
Atkinson obsessed over getting every Elvis detail correct. He dyed his hair, had four Elvis jumpsuits, and fashioned his voice to sound just like the real thing...
At the local Walmart, employees broke corporate protocol and set up a memorial wreath at the entrance, and had pictures displayed on a table inside, along with a condolence book, which many customers have stopped to sign. The store even played some of Atkinson’s recordings on the sound system. "The aisles are going to be quiet now," said Walmart assistant manager Lavina Woodfin, "No more song."
In January 1934, at the age of 82, arctic explorer W.J.A. Grant decided he wasn't much longer for this world and had a "farewell to life" champagne party. The centerpiece of the event was a wooden coffin he had specially made. Five hundred people attended, as well as "a bevy of beautiful dancing girls." He instructed everyone to "wear your gayest clothes—don't come in the miserable garb of woe."
The partying lasted through the night. Grant, wearing a boutonniere in his coat lapel, mingled with his guests "and pointed cheerfully to a notice on the wall that said he would die within a week."
But the next day, having had only two hours of sleep, he announced that he now "felt fine." It took him another year before he finally kicked the bucket. [Chicago Tribune - Mar 11, 1935]
Books Selected and endorsed for Pure Weirdness by Your WU Team
Who We Are
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.